For the First Time in 13 Years

They carried it through the door of our little brick house. Two heavy pedestals with claw feet, followed by the two halves of the table, which were carefully placed on top.

It had two leaves, each 18 inches wide, giving us three feet to extend the length of our table.

I envisioned it with children circling round, and friends crowded in, bowls of steaming soup and warm homemade bread in front of each smiling face.

My heart swelled at the thought.

It was our tenth wedding anniversary gift to each other, this table.

Heavy oak, custom made by a man who, unfortunately, decided to experiment with a new finish that year – a thick coating that still gets sticky each summer and can be scraped off by curious fingernails.

The day the table was delivered, we had four children and we dreamed of one or two more.

Strangers questioned our family size, but we believed children were a blessing from the Lord.

We were steeped in a church culture that encouraged large families, homeschooling, home birthing, home everything, really.

We still believe with all our hearts that children are a blessing from the Lord.

Our thoughts on family size, where babies are born, where and how children are educated have expanded and become more flexible. There is tremendous freedom in these matters.

Regardless, I wanted a table filled with love, and food, and laughter.

God answered the longing of my heart.

He gave us two more children while we lived in Colorado.

Three years later we moved to Idaho and added one leaf to the table – our family was complete.

We loved having people over for dinner and often pulled the second leaf out of the coat closet for Sunday gatherings. The ten-foot table fit our family and plenty more.

One week before my 39th birthday, to our great joy, we had a baby girl, Claire, and our family was complete – really, this time we were done.

You know the rest of the story, when she was three, and life seemed strangely calm, God opened our hearts to the needs of orphans in Ethiopia, and we felt led to adopt.

We added four more children to our family and from 2007 onward, our table permanently held both leaves. Ten feet in length, it filled our dining room.

Until last week.

To everything there is a season…

Our family was once expanding, a long, deep inhale, growing, taking up more and more space.

Now we’re exhaling, becoming smaller, our house emptying, our table less crowded.

This seems to have happened quickly and rather dramatically with a few of our older kids moving out of state this year. Our college-age daughter, Annarose, gone for the summer and moving in with friends when she returns.

We’re down to five kids at home. With Zoe possibly returning home to her mom in the coming months and Beza turning 18 in September, eager for more independence, who knows what this year may hold?

Too many evenings found five or six of us eating dinner at one end of a ten-foot table and it seemed time to say, “This is us; this is the family we are now.”

It was time to take a leaf out of the table.

I won’t deny some sadness, but the leaf is in the coat closet and can easily be added to the table when the big kids are home.

One day, maybe not too many years from now, we’ll inhale again and expand to add more spouses and even grandchildren.

Our home and table will fill again when they visit.

There are seasons, and right now we’re called to focus on the younger children in our family, a crew with significant trauma and needs.

Although the numbers are small, the task is not.

This is a new season and I’m finding my way in it; a smaller table, fewer children at home, my big kids spreading out around the country. Life feels very different.

My table reminds me our family is changing; I can change too, I am strong enough for this.

For everything, there is a season.


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Regina
    July 5, 2017

    This is beautiful Lisa and reminds me of my recent focus on finding joy in the moments and changes God brings into our lives. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 5, 2017

      Thank you, Regina. I’m looking for joy, too, even when life looks different and even feels a little uncomfortable – it is still beautiful.

  2. Susan Patterson
    July 5, 2017

    Yes, Lisa – you’ll be adding the leaves soon enough, just not as often. And each time you add a leaf will bring you inexpressible joy as you remember the past fullness of your table, and God’s faithfulness in filling your table once again.

    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 6, 2017

      So true, Susan. The joy is sweet when my table is full.

  3. Wendy
    July 5, 2017

    Oh, this is beautifully written. We are experiencing our first family-size change, though it is thankfully temporary. Our eldest, turning 15 this summer, is away on a Missions trip to Ecuador for 6 weeks. But it is a strange reminder how short the time is until that becomes more permanent, and it leaves me feeling unsettled! Your grace in all situations is such a blessed model for me!

    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 6, 2017

      So nice to hear from you, Wendy. Your children are growing!

  4. Laurel
    July 6, 2017

    We took the leaves out of our 10′ table last fall. Just over a year ago, there were 9 of us living here (with 3 teens plus a son, daughter-in-law, and 2 grandsons). We are now down to just 2 teens at home (and the college daughter on occasional weekends and holidays). It is so very different, but we are learning to enjoy our new normal. We are pouring into the lives of our 2 youngest sons (ages 15 & 17), who really got lost in the shuffle when we started our trauma journey through adoption in 2007. We are thankful for this time with them. We do have a high chair next to the dining table, though, as one little grandson comes over quite often.

    We have 2 kids and 1 grandkid across town, 2 kids and 2 grandkids across the state, 5 kids and 8 grandkids across the country, and one daughter across the world. But, we keep those table leaves nearby, waiting for a time to pull them out and fill the dining room once again.

    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 7, 2017

      That sounds lovely, Laurel. To everything there is a season.

  5. nicole
    July 7, 2017

    This is so beautiful, Lisa.

    So beautiful, that as I read it, I began to question how our family has added children. Did we do it all wrong? Should we have had more biological children and waited until they were older to adopt?

    But, like you, this journey has taught me to be more flexible on my own ideals and the ideals others attempt to burden me with.

    I will say, meals are hard for us. Because of this post, I’m going to specifically pray that our family will begin to truly enjoy eating together.

    Thanks for writing it.

    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 7, 2017

      Thank you so much. Nicole, be free from those ideals – not much in life happens according to those ideals because we are human and so is everyone around us. Life happens in this broken world. Most of all, much to my dismay, we are not in control. Meals are hard, especially with kids from “hard places” who have known hunger or any form of deprivation. Set the bar low enough for them to succeed, put something on the table everyone will like (fruit, bread?), try to find one happy moment of conversation when possible. We go around the table and ask everyone to share something interesting about their day – good, bad, something they learned. Alternately, we go around and everyone shares one thing they did that was kind, one thing that was brave, and one time they failed that day. It teaches kids it’s okay to fail and even their parents fail every day. Sometimes I share a funny failure or a time I was afraid to do something and then was brave enough to do it. It helps them see we are still learning too. Hmmm, given the length of this reply, maybe there is a blog post here.

  6. Sophie
    July 7, 2017

    I saw this and thought of Kalkidan.
    Hot sauce on a key chain.
    Wouldn’t she love this?!
    Thinking of your family from Canada.

    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 8, 2017


  7. Hannah
    July 16, 2017

    Gorgeous writing, Mamma!

    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 17, 2017

      Thank you, Hannah!

  8. Mary Beth
    September 21, 2018

    “Life feels very different.”
    “I am strong enough for this.”
    This echoed in my heart today. My big kids, my bio kids are leaving the nest. My adopted children remain. Some maybe for good. When God called us to this journey, he neglected to tell me the easy ones would grow up and leave. Somedays I’m not sure I am strong enough for this 🙂


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